Last Man Standing

Giles clicked save, leaned back in his chair and let out a long contented sigh. Another 14,000 words added to his magnum opus. Giles Rees-Johnson’s: History of the Twenty First Century: The Capitalist Utopia. It was a blow-by-blow account of the last forty years from the perspective of the world’s richest and most powerful man; Giles himself.

They said history was written by the victors and Giles had taken them literally. And who was better placed than him to document this defining age? No one! Giles was the perennial victor. He’d beaten his twin brother out of the womb, come top of his class at the prestigious Harvard School of Business and had forged a business empire so vast that he currently owned more money than the rest of the globe combined. He wasn’t the one percent he was the one. Presidents bowed to him, dictators held open doors for him and the peasants in the street common folk trembled underneath the shadow of his vast tower in Manhattan.

A shot rang out in the darkness. Giles couldn’t hear the corresponding thud but he was certain there had been one. There was a time when the gunfire had bothered him but not now. It was too common. Too normal. Too boring. Giles didn’t even look up from his screen. There was no danger the gunshot could have come from anywhere. The tendrils of his Panopticon system had eyes and ears everywhere, feeding back data into the vast computer array deep beneath Rees-Johnson Tower. It had been Inspired by the prefect prison initially suggested by Jeremy Bentham in 1791. A prison where the inmates were visible at all times but had no way of knowing if anyone was actually watching them Without being able to tell whether they are being watched the inmates would natural err on the side of caution and behave themselves. Giles had naturally taken it up a notch and using machine learning had made it so that people were being watched at all times.

Businesses had paid him to spy on their employees, husbands to spy on their wives and governments on their people. His fortune practically doubled overnight, and then again next night and the next. Pretty soon he was personally the fifth highest grossing country in the world. There were calls for splitting up his companies, for investigating his taxes but they all went away after a quick search through his databases. Everyone had something to hide. As his power grew he began to use it less defensively and more offensively. Taking down a hostile government here, passing a more business friendly regulation there anything he wanted he got and what he wanted more than anything was money. All of it.

A woman’s scream tore through the silence. Startled Giles tapped at his keyboard and his manuscript was replaced by a murky shot of some derelict street. He tapped a few keys and the shot sharpened slightly as the camera adjusted for the smog. A woman dressed in filthy rags was on the floor edging back from a hulking figure wielding a club. An incomprehensible murmur came through the speakers and Giles tapped a few keys to turn up the volume.

“Easy now love,” said the hulking figure. “There’s no need to make this any harder than it need to be.”

“Please,” begged the woman. “I don’t have anything you need. Just leave me be.”

“That’s where you’re wrong love. You know how long it’s been since I seen a woman? Never mind a woman as fine looking as you?”

He ran a thick booted foot down her leg and she recoiled like she’d been bitten. The man just smiled and licked his lips.

“Oh, don’t be like that. It must have been a while since you’ve been with a man. Not many left nowadays. How about we just have a little fun while we still can eh?”

“If I do this do you promise you won’t hurt me?” asked the woman, her back pressed against the door behind her, no where left to run.

“Not much,” replied the man with a smile.

The woman nodded, tears running down her face.

“You won’t regret this,” said the man setting aside his club and unbuckling his belt. As he lifted what was left of the woman’s skirt and positioned himself between her legs Giles fingers hovered over the keys ready to kill the feed. Before Giles could click the button the woman sat up she and wrapped her arms around the man’s neck and whispered something in his ear. The man started to jerk and spasm, flopping like a fish in the bottom of a boat as the woman held him close then at last he fell still. The woman pulled the small knife out of the mans neck and licked the blood off the blade as the counter in the top right of the screen ticked down.

90,304. That was all that was left of the eight billion people that had called the earth home just twenty years earlier. Global warming had cause floods, famines and mass migrations. Civil unrest had lead to war which had led to more death and disease until first China then Pakistan had pressed the button and doomed the already broken Earth. All that was left now were 90,303 cockroaches scrabbling through wreckage of a broken world and above them all safe in his bunker Giles Rees-Johnson documenting it all for no one. On the screen the woman took the knife and started to butcher the corpse with the ease of long practise. Giles shuddered, clicked and few buttons and his manuscript popped back onto the screen.

Time was running out for everyone. She would be one of the last to die but soon even a predator like her would fall to radiation poisoning or starvation or some less gullible prey. Then it would just be Giles. The richest man in a broken world. The last man standing.

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